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Original Investigation
November 2014

Regional Control of Head and Neck Melanoma With Selective Neck Dissection

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland
  • 2Division of Surgical Oncology, Department of Surgery, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014;140(11):1014-1018. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2014.2056

Importance  Historically, patients with cervical metastases from melanoma of the head and neck were treated with a radical neck dissection. This study evaluates the efficacy of limiting the extent of lymphadenectomy in this high-risk population.

Objectives  To determine whether limiting the extent of lymphadenectomy for patients with biopsy-proven melanoma has a negative effect on regional control. Our hypothesis was that performing a more limited lymphadenectomy does not have a negative impact on regional control.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A retrospective, single-cohort study was performed using a prospectively collected database of patients with head and neck melanoma with histopathologically positive lymph nodes after modified radical (MRND) or selective neck dissection (SNDs) performed at a high-volume, academic, tertiary care center.

Interventions  Lymphadenectomy was performed as clinically indicated.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Primary end points were regional recurrence and regional recurrence free survival. Univariable and multivariable analyses were conducted using multiple patient characteristics.

Results  Forty-one patients underwent SND or MRND from 2001 through 2010. The median number of positive nodes was 1 (range, 1-16). Twenty-six patients (63%) received adjuvant radiation and 23 patients (56%) received adjuvant immunotherapy or chemotherapy. The median follow-up time was 17 months (range, 1-116 months). Regional control was achieved in 29 patients (71%). Median regional recurrence-free survival was 21 months (range, 1-116 months). Age (hazard ratio [HR], 1.13; 95% CI, 1.01-1.26), total number of nodes examined (HR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.01-1.10), and number of sentinel lymph nodes examined (HR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.01-2.09) were all significantly associated with increased recurrence-free survival. Tumor depth, extracapsular spread, number of nodes positive, prior SLNB, extent of lymphadenectomy, and adjuvant therapy were not significant.

Conclusions and Relevance  Limiting the extent of lymphadenectomy with frequent use of adjuvant radiation therapy is effective in achieving regional control of head and neck melanoma with cervical metastases.